|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Literary Fiction
Start Date: Jan. 30, 2011
Finished Date: Feb. 4, 2011 (6 days)
Where Found: Xmas 2010 gift
Why Read: I love the movie with Michael Douglas and had heard of Michael Chabon, but never read anything by him before.
Summary: A creative writing professor with a long unfinished book stifled by a pot addiction is caught in a comedy of errors after his wife leaves him, and he cannot get the record straight with a talented by brooding student, his flamboyant editor, and his pregnant lover...not to mention the odd contents of his trunk.
Novels with writers as main characters are fascinating pieces of fiction. You feel like a secret is being revealed, a curtain being pulled back, and voila--the writer as character will let you in on what it's "really" like to write books for a living. Sounds incredibly cliched on spec, and it would be unless the plot was as bizarre as a Samuel Beckett play. Chabon writes with a wicked sense of humour about writers and their drug-fuelled lifestyles, occasionally poking acerbic fun at himself and the culture of writers from the commercial to the aesthetic.
There is a game budding writers play where a series of objects is given and a story must be devised that uses all items to advance the plot. To give you an insight to the machinations of Chabon's plot, here is a list of motifs used to incredibly wild lengths and connections otherwise unforeseen:
- A neverending 2000+ page novel
- A pearly miniature handgun
- A blind dog
- A tuba
- A greenhouse
- A pair of ever-worn red cowboy boots
- A threadbare bathrobe
- A jacket with ermine collar once worn by Marilyn Monroe
- A memorial candle with a 78 cent price tag
Random enough? These props strike a startling note from their introduction and have both individual & ongoing significance to the story by way of a pot-smoking, once prodigal writer-professor, his newly pregnant lover & college chancellor, her memorabilia-collecting, English department head husband, a sexually ambiguous editor, a talented student with naive, eccentric & dark undertones, a willowy transvestite, a doe-eyed student in love with her teacher, an ex-wife's mixed family celebrating Passover, a commercialized writer with a metaphoric doppelganger, and a pint-sized former boxer with a ragged facial scar.
Any further discussion of plot would give away too much. Chabon writes with hilarity, sharp intellectualism, and clever description with a contemporaneous plot reminiscent of one falling down a rabbit hole, stuffed with memorable characters that filter in and out, sometimes returning with gusto. At moments where your head is spinning, the plot slows to a mental break, and then picks up again to tie the ending up like a crooked bow on a present.
The book had an ending equally satisfying (though somewhat different) from the movie. The only scene in the book correctly edited from the movie was the lagging stopover at the Warshaw house for Passover, which tended to divert too much from the story, and in the end, we came away from it with only a smidge of relevance. The movie was adapted very closely to the novel, keeping nearly all characters and the wittiest dialogue, adding some variations that worked well (often stemming from Chabon's descriptions), and compacting some scenes for time that in a novel need explaining but in a movie can come together with a single cut.
I give the book an A, the movie an A+.
Rank: (A)- Very Good, Highly Recommend